This farm stands on the location of a former water mill,
the "Pflattermühle", destroyed during the war.
Before and during the war the mill was also
a rather important landmark,
which we will later recognize on this page on some period maps.
Via a tunnel we cross the A 36.
View northward at the sister village, Burnhaupt-le-Haut,
centre point of the Battle of Burnhaupt-le-Haut.
At the horizon the southern ridges of the Vosges.
In the copse on the right we will visit our first bunker plot.
The first bunker, which we visit, is an artillery observation bunker, constructed of masonry of concrete blocks.
A staircase leads to the top construction for better observations.
The two entrances are guarded by a loopholes.
The interior of the bunker,
left a sentry room guarding the entrances.
The three loopholes of the sentry room.
The second entrance.
Next to the bunker stands a "Blinkstelle", a light signal station.
Concrete breastworks surround these bunkers.
The third bunker of this plot is severely damaged.
It served as a shelter bunker.
Before we continue our walk north-eastward into the "Hardtwald"
wood, I offer you in the frame below some historical information.
Burnhaupt-le-Bas - 1914-1916.
Let us first have a closer look via this 1917 sketch of L.I.R. 123 at the location of Burnhaupt-le-Bas in relation to its geographic position along the Sundgau front line.
The 3rd Battalion of Landwehr Infanterie Regiment 40.
During the period of 1914-1916 the 3rd Battalion of the Badische Landwehr Infanterie Regiment 40, a component of the 82. Landwehr Brigade of the 12. Landwehr Division, was stationed at Burnhaupt-le-Bas or “Nieder Burnhaupt”. Major Melchers (not on this picture) commanded the 3rd Battalion from Burnhaupt-le-Bas.
(Period photo: Courtesy of Brett Butterworth of “Drake Goodman’s Photostream”. Afterwards the period photographer added the regimental number on the "Felduberzug".)
The commander of L.I.R. 40, Oberst (Colonel) D. Koch had his regimental headquarters at Heimbrunn, a village directly east of Burnhaupt-le-Bas.
In the south the 3rd Battalion was flanked by units of L.I.R. 123, and in the north, at Burnhaupt-le-Haut (“Ober Burnhaupt”), by several companies of its own L.I.R. 40 and later on with units of L.I.R. 110. The L.I.R. 119 was at the right flank of the Burnhaupt villages at the Kahlberg and at Aspach-le-Bas.
The French units.
In July 1915 these German units were opposed by French units of the 114e Brigade d’Infanterie, part of the 57e Divison d’Infanterie de Réserve, a component of the Groupement des Vosges, the Vosges Army Group. The 56e Régiment d'Infanterie Territoriale, consisting mostly of older soldiers, guarded the lines opposite Burnhaupt at Guewenheim and Soppe-le-Bas.
Attacks in the region of Burnhaupt.
Though Burnhaupt-le-Bas was never itself the main target of French attacks, the village and it surroundings were literally sideways involved by attacks on the village, south of it, Ammerzwiller.
These battles were respectively fought on 1 and 2 December 1914, ...
... from 2 April until 4 May 1915, ...
... and on 11 and 12 July 1915.
Burnhaupt-le-Bas and Burnhaupt-le-Haut, January 1915.
During the second week of January 1915 the fate of Burnhaupt-le Bas was directly connected to the fate of its northern sister village, Burnhaupt-le-Haut.
The first front line ran west of the villages and the second line was along the edge of the two villages. East of the villages, and south-east of Burnhaupt-le-Bas were 3rd line artillery positions like for instance in the wood of the Ober Hartwald, nowadays called "Hardtwald".
The Battle of Burnhaupt-le-Haut, 7- 10 January 1915.
During the days of 7-10 January 1915 the village of Burnhaupt-le Bas was involved in the French attacks, which concentrated on Burnhaupt-le-Haut. The 57e D.I.R. opened the attack with preliminary artillery bombardments during the day of 7 January and in the morning of 8 January until 12.30 hrs.
During the afternoon of 8 January the units of the 371e R.I., the 3rd Battalion of the 172e R.I., 2nd Battalion of the 53e R.I., and the 2nd Battalion of the 56e R.I.T., deployed from Guewenheim and Soppe-le-Bas their first infantry attacks at Burnhaupt-le-Haut.
The Fußartillerie-Batterie 362 “von Beck”, a component of the Lothringisches Fußartillerie-Regiment Nr. 16 stationed at the Ober Hartwald, bombarded 400 French soldiers, gathered at the train station west of Burnhaupt-le-Haut, which made them start to retreat hastily for the time being. Later in the afternoon the units conquered the train station and entered the village. They were fighting in close combat in the streets.
The German 3rd Battalion had to send hastily troops from Burnhaupt-le-Bas to its sister village to assist the other companies of L.I.R. 40 defending the village.
On request of Major Melchers Oberst Koch did send from Heimbrunn also extra other units of L.I.R. 40 to reinforce the fighting units at Burnhaupt-le-Haut.
In the night of the 8 to 9 January even units of the L.I.R. 110 arrived from Schweighouse and Heimbrunn to resist the French attacks and to drive the French back, out of the village. On the 9th the French troops in the village suffered from surrounding fires of burning houses, caused by the nearby German artillery, which made them to start to retreat from the village to its western outskirts.
After two days of battle and under pressure of the German reinforcements the French troops were finally forced to retreat on 10 January to their original positions at Guewenheim and Soppe-le-Bas.
The Aftermath; German Casualties.
At 10 January the Germans know to reoccupy their own former positions in and around the Burnhaupt villages. Immediately they started to reconstruct their trenches and fortifications.
During these days L.I.R. 40 counted 13 men killed, 15 wounded and 24 soldiers were missing in action.
L.I.R. 110 counted 4 officers killed and 18 killed soldiers, 1 officer wounded, 53 men wounded, and 22 soldiers were missing in action.
Compared to the French, the Germans had a relatively lower number of casualties - 150.
"Deutsche Kriegszeitung": French P.O.W.'s.
According to the weekly magazine of the period, the “Deutsche Kriegszeitung” of 17 January 1915, the Germans conquered during the fights at Burnhaupt of 8 and 9 January a French "machine-gun" and they took “2 officers and 420 men prisoner”.
The victorious tone of this quote of the “Deutsche Kriegszeitung” does not mention the wounded and killed French soldiers and the men missing in action.
According to the French regimental war journals the situation was worse and these French attacks were rather disastrous. The 3rd Battalion of the 172 R.I., temporarily detached to the 371e R.I., lost during the “Battle of Burnhaupt-le-Haut” 2 officers and 336 men; approx. 19% of their unit.
The 371e R.I. counted at the first day of the battle: two officers killed, 7 officers wounded, and 2 officers missing in action. Casualties of NCO’s and soldiers: 18 killed, 147 wounded, 467 M.I.A. (or P.O.W.), approx. 23 % of their unit . There is no casualty list to be found on the page of the 9th. After the battle, on 25 January, these high casualty numbers even forced this regiment to reorganise thoroughly.
The JMO of the 56e R.I.T. only mentions on the 8th: "2 soldiers killed and 3 wounded". Considering the advance of the 2nd Battalion and its ultimate position in the village it is most likely that these numbers were later even higher.
The total casualty number of these three French regiments were at least 984 men, or 6,5 times higher than the German losses!
From 15 January 1915 on the Germans would launch a counter-offensive, that concentrated its attacks more northward on the sector of Cernay and the Hartmannswillerkopf.
(Besides the French JMO's, main source: Philippe Springer;
“L ‘Alsace en guerre – 1914-1916 – Vers le front continu en Haute-Alsace”.)
We now continue our route entering the "Ober Hartwald",
or nowadays named the Hardtwald.
We cross the N 466 via a bridge.
Along a parallel channel of the Doller river we visit our
second bunker plot, starting with this ammunition bunker.
Next a damaged shelter bunker.
The second ammunition bunker at this plot.
The second shelter bunker with relics of the breast works.
The third, damaged shelter bunker of this plot.
We follow the signs, which will lead us to ...
... the right bank of the Doller.
From the Doller we continue our walk south-eastward, ...
... roughly following the parallel channel, the Steinbächlein.
After some 400 m. we arrive at this bunker,
which served as a dressing station.
It stands at the start of a forest lane ...
... along the third bunker plot. The green dots mark some
of the bunkers, hidden under the trees.
The view point of this photo is to be found below in the sketch.
We will visit this personnel bunker with in front of it
an ammunition niche.
The concrete ammunition niche.
The personnel shelter bunker, partly damaged.
We continue to the ...
... "Befehlstelle der Fussartillerie-Batterie 362", or ...
... the command Post of the Foot Artillery Battery 362
The inscription of Fussartillerie-Batterie 362.
The bunker is decorated with Prussian crosses, ...
... marked with a W of Kaiser "Wilhelm", ...
... which is also the shape of the distinction of the Iron Cross.
A view at the interior.
The rear side of the Command Post.
Notice the thickness of the walls behind the bunker.
This spot made me think of this period photo.
We leave the "Befehlstelle" for the next three bunkers
of this plot: ...
... two destroyed ammunition bunkers, ...
... and an ammunition bunker with a niche in front of it.
This ammunition bunker is still in a good condition.
We leave this position
and we follow the Steinbächlein southward.
From the edge of the wood we spot on an open field this stork.
The stork forms the national symbol of the Alsace.
Not only the stork, but also an unknown local artist, "W.M.",
helps us to cheer us up.
This funny goblin reminds us of our great privilege to enjoy
our lives in the peaceful Europe of nowadays.
Now we arrive at the location of the “Dich Waschanlage”.
These walls in the channel were here already
before the French Revolution (1789).
They served a civilian purpose: a laundry for
the Burnhaupt women, called the “Dich Waschanlage”
or “Le Lavoir de Dich”.
Probably the soldiers, stationed here, used it also for
Burnhaupt women would use the laundry until the 1960s.
We cross a small bridge over the Steinbächlein
to continue first north-westward and later southward.
Out of the wood we feel the heat,
when we walk in the open field to a fire gallery bunker.
The loopholes of the "Schieẞstand mit raum",
facing westward, are filled in.
The entrance and staircase.
The two rooms interior with an ammunition niche.
The interior of the gallery with the filled in loopholes.
We leave the "Schieẞstand mit raum" to continue southward,
crossing the A 36 safely via a bridge, to arrive at
the northern bank of the "Plan'd'eau" of Burnhaupt-le-Bas.
Across the lake, at the south-east bank, we spot a bunker.
A tele view over the lake.
View from the south-east bank of the lake at Burnhaupt-le-Bas.
Tele view of Burnhaupt-le-Bas.
The lake forms now a recreation attraction for the local youth.
The bunker is covered with modern graffiti, alas
The same bunker, seen from the south, sinking slowly in the lake.
From this bunker at the lake we continue southward ...
.... and we enter the Hinterholz wood for a plot of 5 bunkers.
At the right side of the path we find this time 2 funny goblins.
The first bunker is a double one. Considering its state
and large windows it may have served as an officers bunker.
Next a second personnel bunker with chicane shaped entrances.
The interior. Notice the 45° walls of the entrances.
The ceiling is still in a perfect state.
The third bunker is an ammunition bunker.
The ladder suggests that the roof may have been used
as an observation post.
Almost hidden by the vegetation, two bunkers next to each other.
This shelter bunker possesses two chicane shaped entrances.
One of these entrances is also protected
by a concrete wall in front of it.
Only a half is left of this twin shelter bunker.
We continue some 200 m. southward. At the east side
of the path we detect a large concrete structure: ...
.. a double shelter bunker for infantry soldiers.
The two entrances on the north-east side.
The interiors of the "left" and the "right" bunker.
Notice the good condition of the metal parts of the ceilings.
View from the right bunker
via the connecting door into the left bunker.
We continue some 150 m. southward.
At the western side of the path we find a double shelter bunker.
Whenever I find an original inscription, even if it is
almost illegible, I always get rather excited.
"Constructed 1917 by Pioniere Compagnie 251
and .... Batt VII/54""
The interior of the left bunker.
The interior of the right bunker.
We leave the Hinterholz, cross the open field for some 500 m.
View north-westward at Burnhaupt-le Bas.
We arrive at the north-western edge of the Limberg wood
to find the last bunker of our visit.
Like the first bunker with which we started our walk,
this bunker served also as an artillery observation post,
with a staircase to the roof.
It is almost identical to "our" first observation post,
more to the north of the village.
The interior possesses two rooms.
The smaller room, a sentry room,
with three loopholes, guarding the two entrances.
The rear side of the artillery observation post.
We leave the wood and we cover again some 500 m. westward
in the open field to our last goal.
At the edge of the fishing pond we will find a rather
confusing structure, covering the "Hagendorn" source.
Beneath it we will find the typical concrete block structure
which we were seeking.
Although we are at first a bit disappointed by the state of
this spot, we are rewarded by finding a
well-cut German inscription.
From the Hagendorn source we continue north-westward
to return to our car, parked at the foot of the village church
Continue to the next chapters
about the Alsace Vosges battlefields: